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Schlepping around the Flowers

James Meek: Bees, 4 November 2004

The Hive: The Story of the Honey-Bee and Us 
by Bee Wilson.
Murray, 308 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 7195 6409 3
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... Bartholomew spoke of a ‘king bee’ being waited on and defended by serf bees, esquire bees and knight bees, and going forth from the hive only in the company of a swarm of vassal bees. The king bee was evidently superior to the other bees because it was bigger. Wilson has tracked the model of the hive as perceived by English intellectuals, mutating ...

Theatre-proof

Anne Barton, 2 July 1981

Othello as Tragedy 
by Jane Adamson.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £15, October 1980, 0 521 22368 7
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Shakespeare and Tragedy 
by John Bayley.
Routledge, 228 pp., £9.75, April 1981, 0 7100 0632 2
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... a good book on Shakespeare’s tragedies – let alone the natural successor to Bradley and Wilson Knight claimed in the publisher’s ...

English Protestantism

J.B. Trapp, 4 September 1980

Studies in the Reformation: Luther to Hooker 
by W.D.J. Cargill Thompson.
Athlone, 259 pp., £18, July 1980, 9780485111873
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... us – he rounded on the bishops who came to plead that he would go with them to the coronation of Anne Boleyn: ‘Though your lordships have in the matter of the matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you keep your virginity still ... It lieth not in my power but that they may devour me. But, God being my good ...

Half a pirate

Patrick O’Brian, 22 January 1987

Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates 
by Robert Ritchie.
Harvard, 306 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 674 09501 4
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Richard Knight’s Treasure! The True Story of his Extraordinary Quest for Captain Kidd’s Cache 
by Glenys Roberts.
Viking, 198 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 670 80761 3
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... he was hanged his goods were condemned at £6472.1s.0d. When the legal wrangling was over, Queen Anne granted this sum to the commissioners for Greenwich Hospital and with it they bought the land needed for completing the splendid plan. But people love to believe, and in spite of all the sensible reasons against the existence of Captain Kidd’s buried ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... as heightened projections of the local. No one would have mistaken Athens and Thebes in ‘The Knight’s Tale’ or Troy in Troilus and Criseyde for classical reconstructions. Theseus builds a vast theatre for the tournament of Palamon and Arcite just as Chaucer himself, as clerk of the works, oversaw the construction of lists for the jousting at ...

Heroic Irrigations

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1990

The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry.
Athlone, 401 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 485 11374 0
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The Medical History of Waters and Spas 
edited by Roy Porter.
Wellcome Institute, 150 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 85484 095 8
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... baron or bishop should use the blunt address ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and that a baronet, knight or physician should say ‘friend’. This sounds like a hack etiquette writer running wild. Wisely, Dr Hembry makes no attempt to assess the individual virtues of any given spa water, whether cold, hot, gaseous, stinking or holy. The medical analysis of ...

Real Absences

Barbara Johnson, 19 October 1995

Post Scripts: The Writer’s Workshop 
by Vincent Kaufmann, translated by Deborah Treisman.
Harvard, 199 pp., £31.95, June 1994, 0 674 69330 2
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The Oxford Book of Letters 
edited by Frank Kermode and Anita Kermode.
Oxford, 559 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 19 214188 0
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... Charlotte Sophia chastising her son William for being ‘a true trifling character’, emigrant Anne Francis on the ants and jackals greeting colonists in South Africa, Fanny Burney on her mastectomy, two reports of witnessing executions and five different accounts of hot-air balloon voyages. There is John Addington Symonds’s description of Tennyson and ...

How do we know her?

Hilary Mantel: The Secrets of Margaret Pole, 2 February 2017

Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower 
by Susan Higginbotham.
Amberley, 214 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 4456 3594 1
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... four of Margaret’s children lived to adulthood. Her husband’s career flourished. He was made knight of the Garter, and appointed chamberlain to the young Prince of Wales. Margaret may have been deprived of her dynastic importance, but her marriage was honourable and stable, and she retained her status, if not her family’s great titles and wealth. Her ...

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson: Why would a guy want to marry a guy?, 2 June 2005

The Friend 
by Alan Bray.
Chicago, 380 pp., £28, September 2003, 0 226 07180 4
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... Alongside the monuments Bray presents and describes are some startling texts. On 12 February 1834, Anne Lister recorded in her diary her plans to solemnise her union with Ann Walker: ‘She is to give me a ring & I her one in token of our union.’ Their relationship ‘would be as good as a marriage’, Ann had said. ‘Yes,’ said ...

Sister-Sister

Terry Castle, 3 August 1995

Jane Austen’s Letters 
edited by Deirde Le Faye.
Oxford, 621 pp., £30, March 1995, 0 19 811764 7
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... early 19th-century Britain (the recently rediscovered diaries of Austen’s lesbian contemporary, Anne Lister, are an example) – one is struck not so much by the letters’ hastiness or triviality as by the passionate nature of the sibling bond they commemorate. Sororal or pseudo-sororal attachments are arguably the most immediately gratifying human ...

Good Books

Marghanita Laski, 1 October 1981

The Promise of Happiness 
by Fred Inglis.
Cambridge, 333 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 521 23142 6
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The Child and the Book 
by Nicholas Tucker.
Cambridge, 259 pp., £15, March 1981, 0 521 23251 1
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The Impact of Victorian Children’s Fiction 
by J.S. Bratton.
Croom Helm, 230 pp., £11.95, July 1981, 0 07 099777 2
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Children’s Literature. Vol. IX 
edited by Francelia Butler, Samuel Pickering, Milla Riggio and Barbara Rosen.
Yale, 241 pp., £17.35, March 1981, 0 300 02623 4
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The ‘Signal’ Approach to Children’s Books 
edited by Nancy Chambers.
Kestrel, 352 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7226 5641 6
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... brought before King William by Rahere the Jester revealed as Harold Godwin, and Hugh, the Saxon knight, kneeling to him. And ‘each time,’ writes Inglis, ‘the queer, crisp ripple of excitement tingled along my spine; the brimming tears which never quite fell, the chokey lump in the throat ... You see the same in children in the right mood listening to ...

Watch your tongue

Marina Warner, 20 August 1992

Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love 
by Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 308 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 226 05973 1
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Women of the Renaissance 
by Margaret King.
Chicago, 328 pp., £13.50, December 1991, 0 226 43618 7
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The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographical Romances of the 13th Century 
by Brigitte Cazelles.
Pennsylvania, 320 pp., £35, November 1991, 9780812230994
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Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis 
by Fulvio Tomizza, translated by Anne Jacobson Shutte.
Chicago, 184 pp., £19.95, December 1991, 0 226 80789 4
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Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance 
by Tina Krontiris.
Routledge, 192 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 415 06329 9
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... never more notably than in Renaut de Beaujeu’s Lai d’Ignauré, recounted by Bloch. Ignauré, a knight, makes love to all 12 wives of the 12 peers of the realm, and is discovered. The husbands castrate him, kill him, and dish up his genitals and heart in a stew for their wives’ table. When the women discover what they have done, they refuse ever to eat ...

The Italy of Human Beings

Frances Wilson: Felicia Hemans, 16 November 2000

Felicia Hemans: ‘Records of Woman’ with Other Poems 
edited by Paula Feldman.
Kentucky, 248 pp., £15.50, September 1999, 0 8131 0964 7
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... In her introduction to Records of Woman, Feldman agrees with other Romanticists such as Anne Mellor and Jerome McGann that Hemans ‘defies’, ‘undercuts’ and ‘criticises’ the feminine domestic ideal she appears to represent. In other words, she emerges from the 20th century less of a lady than was previously thought, and more of a ...

Cramming for Success

James Wood: Hardy in London, 15 June 2017

Thomas Hardy: Half A Londoner 
by Mark Ford.
Harvard, 305 pp., £20, October 2016, 978 0 674 73789 1
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... unsophisticated architect’s assistant, a new arrival in London from the country; and Henry Knight, an established, opinionated lawyer deeply at home in literary London (he also reviews books). Hardy’s fiction repeatedly stages not only the multiple courting of a heroine (Jude the Obscure switches genders and agency), but the tense sociology of ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... in the documentation of women’s lives’. But is the matter remedied by calling Ellis Cornelia Knight ‘Cornelius’? Or Helen Maria Williams ‘Helena’? Or Lady Mary Wortley Montagu ‘Montague’? Or Cecilia ‘Cecelia’? Or Anne Ehrenpreis ‘Ehrenpries’? Or Patricia Köster ‘Koster’? Or Margarette ...

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